Manager Kevin Nolan made five changes from the side beaten at Grimsby, with Matt Tootle, Michael O’Connor, Jorge Grant, Ben Hall and Jon Stead coming in for Nicky Hunt, Liam Noble, Lewis Alessandra, Shola Ameobi and Richard Duffy.
After an even start, Luton, already promoted and guaranteed second place in League Two, broke and fizzed a ball harmlessly across the face of goal, but Notts replied immediately, Dan Jones trying to find Stead in the box, but the ball evaded the striker. Luton threatened again and Adam Collin was forced to palm away Olly Lee’s 20-yard strike. Notts attacked next in an end-to-end game, Grant setting Jones free on the left but his cross was poor and easily cleared. And there was another chance after 16 minutes, Matty Virtue and Stead keeping the ball alive in the box before it was eventually hacked clear. Luton should have taken the lead after 20 minutes, Jack Stacey powering into the right side of the box before firing just wide of Collin’s right-hand post. Notts roared back and only a last-ditch tackle prevented Stead finding the net, the resulting corner coming to nothing. Grant was next to try his luck, his 20-yard shot well struck but straight at James Shea, who saved comfortably. Stacey was looking lively and he weaved his way into the box on 28 minutes, his goalbound shot deflected over the bar. O’Connor then found himself on the edge of the box but his floated cross to the far post drifted harmlessly wide. Luton’s Lee was next to try his luck, dribbling into the box before seeing his shot deflected over, Notts again defending the corner well. Danny Hylton had been quiet but Luton’s main marksmen went close on 34 minutes, diverting Stacey’s cross into the side netting. The players took an impromptu drinks break a minute before half-time, with Stead injured, and on the resumption Hylton was booked as a row broke out over the drop ball, a costly moment of madness as it turned out. Seconds later referee Darren Handley blew to end an exciting but goalless half.
Notts nearly took the lead in the 48th minute when Grant curled a ball goalwards and Elliott Hewitt was inches away from turning it past Shea. Luton won a freekick on the right of the 18-yard box which was curled dangerously towards goal but Collin and Shaun Brisley combined at the near post to clear the danger. Elliot Lee went close with a long-range shot for the visitors before the game turned Notts way in the 59th minute when Hylton was sent off after collecting a second yellow for a foul on Brisley. Dan Jones was next into the ref’s book for a foul on Pelly Mpanzu but it was Notts piling on the pressure, Forte and O’Connor both having shots blocked before Luton broke dangerously, Stacey firing just wide of Collin’s right-hand post. Then it was Notts’ turn to break, but Stead couldn’t find a telling pass to Forte. In the 74th minute Nolan made a double substitution, Lewis Alessadra replacing Virtue and Noor Husin on for O’Connor. The heat began to tell on Luton’s ten men as Notts took control but they couldn’t find a way through a stubborn defence. Luton replaced Elliot Lee with Harry Cornick in the 79th minute and this was followed by a booking for Notts defender Ben Hall. Alan Smith then replaced Stead as both teams continued to search for a winner, Forte going close with a header which was saved by Shea. But Luton sub Cornick was inches away from a goal when he just failed to reach Stacey’s driven cross. Notts were then indebted to a brilliant last-ditch tackle by Tootle to prevent Mpanzu scoring, Dan Potts going close with a header from the resultant corner. Grant then almost scored for Notts, his freekick from the left drifting just wide of the post, before James Collins broke into the box for Luton and looked certain to score until a poor touch gifted the ball to Collin. It was a thrilling finale for the crowd of over 12,000 and Notts were handed the chance to win it during four minutes of added time when Alessandra was brought down in the D by Alan Sheehan, but Grant could only send the ball over the bar. There was time for a final Luton substitution, Flynn Downes replacing Alan McCormack, before the final whistle went on a pulsating game.
Notts County: Collin, Jones, Hall, Brisley, Tootle, Grant, Hewitt, O’Connor (Husin 74), Virtue (Alessandra 73), Forte, Stead (Smith 81).
Booked: Hall, Jones, Forte.
Luton Town: Shea, Stacey, Rea, Sheehan, Potts, O.Lee, McCormack (Downes 94), E.Lee (Cornick 79), Ruddock, Collins, Hylton.
Booked: Hylton, Sheehan.
Sent Off: Hylton.